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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

I’ll be the first one to say that I don’t like politics. It’s very tiring and stress-inducing for me to stay constantly updated on what’s happening in different areas of the world, the histories behind those events, and the key people involved. It makes me feel like I can never catch up. Sometimes I feel like I missed the memo to start learning about politics, people, and the world, and now I’m too far behind and too tired to start (not to mention, largely uninterested). It goes without saying, that it’s a privilege for me to function in a society without knowing its internal workings because it has largely always worked in my favour.

With everything that’s happening in the United States – the Black Lives Matter movement, the movement to defund the police, and the upcoming presidential elections – I feel really lost in the crowd. I agree with what most people on my Instagram feed say, but I can’t tell whether I agree because I know enough or just because that’s all I see. On top of that, the news has made me realize how little I know about Canada and our treatment of the Indigenous peoples, as well as our broader political arena.

Although I’m very stressed about the general state of affairs, I’ve found a couple of ways to stay informed on the movements that I’m interested in. During the last few months, I’ve also learned how to be kind to yourself while also pushing yourself to become a better citizen by staying informed.

people gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest
Photo by Orna Wachman from Pixabay

Don’t Expect to Know Everything

I think it’s really easy to be hard on yourself while putting everyone else on a pedestal. When people are outspoken and confident, it’s easy to think that they know it all, that they’re right in their opinions and facts, and that you have no hope of catching up enough to fully engage in the conversation.

That’s not true.

No one pops out knowing about everything and everyone. We’ve all led very different lives, so others may not be as knowledgeable on topics that we know a lot about and vice versa. That give-and-take works for everyone you meet. Try to not take it as a personal failure when someone starts talking about an issue that you know nothing about.

As we grow older, our interests become more specific and we tend to learn and grow in the areas that we’re passionate about. You wouldn’t expect everyone you meet to be passionate and knowledgeable about all areas of life, so it’s unfair to ask the same of yourself. So, the next time everyone seems to know more about a subject than you, try not to be too hard on yourself. Instead of locking yourself up and staying quiet, start asking for clarifying questions. Be the first to admit that you aren’t super confident in the subject and be open to the opportunity to learn.

Girl covering face with book
Photo by Siora Photography from Unsplash

Learn in the Formats You Like

I’ve tried to force myself to watch the news and keep up to date on what I hear, but that’s not how my brain likes to stay informed. Instead, I prefer to:

  • Talk to my friends and family and listen to what they’re currently following. Through talking to my friends, I’ve learned about the school-to-prison pipeline, the forced labour of prison convicts, and the human rights abuses of immigrant workers in Canada. I never would’ve heard about these topics from the conventional news cycle and wouldn’t have been inspired to keep learning.

  • Follow activist social media accounts. I like seeing information in concise formats because it allows me to skim through the basics, then research what I’m curious about on my own. Following Instagram accounts also lets me see more political news on my feed than if I were to restrict my news consumption to the radio or newspapers.
  • Sign up for email notifications from online sources. I now receive notifications from The Sup by Betches, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the New York Times, among others. I don’t have the time or interest in reading all the emails thrown at me every day, but skimming through the articles and headlines that catch my eye means I learn a little bit more each day.
  • Pursue the things I’m interested in. It’s hard for me to force interest and passion for things that just don’t intrigue me. It’s not to say that I’m ignorant in all other areas, but don’t expect yourself to become an expert in a field that doesn’t speak to you. I personally love learning about diet culture, broader women’s rights, and (now legalized) cannabis convictions.

two women talking at a table together work business casual
Pexels / Christina Morillo

Realize that Everything is Connected

One of the biggest excuses I made for not being informed was that certain news topics didn’t concern me. Not only was this a selfish train of thought, but I was also really wrong in my opinion. The next time you complain about potholes when you’re driving or the hike in insurance prices, realize that everything is connected to the municipal, provincial and federal governments. Thinking this way makes staying updated more worthwhile because you realize how connected your daily life is to the politics of your area.

Don’t Force Yourself but Keep on It

There’s a difference between disciplining yourself to do hard things and forcing yourself to do something that’s incompatible to you. If you force yourself to learn about the world around you or believe it’s the worst part of your day, give up that tactic and move on to the next.

Maybe it’s the way you consume information, the people you surround yourself with, or the content of the information that makes the experience hard. To help, surround yourself with people who you’re comfortable with and start talking to them about current events to build your confidence. Also, try to avoid people who judge and belittle others who don’t know as much as they do.

If it’s the content itself that makes you anxious or unhappy, try and take a break. Recognize that compassion fatigue exists and that it’s normal to feel uneasy while consuming massive amounts of information about how the world is crumbling. Try to switch up the content you read and engage with sources that also report the good events happening in the world!

Lastly, consume sources that have solutions to the problems being presented in the news. The media is particularly gifted at throwing a multitude of problems at us but is far less skilled in helping us find solutions. The next time you get overwhelmed with the growing climate issues, for example, try and find ways you can help. Sign petitions, start minimizing plastic, consume at sustainable businesses, and minimize your carbon footprint. While this won’t solve all our issues, being proactive helps us step out of the narrative where everything happens to us, to instead focus on what we can control.

sign saying fight today for a better tomorrow
Markus Spiske / Pexels

Solana Pasqual

Queen's U '21

I was born in Sri Lanka, a beautiful island in the Indian Ocean. Currently studying as a Global Development major at Queen's University, my other passions include mental health, womxn's rights, the rights of those in prison under cannabis convictions, and eliminating diet culture. Being a lawyer may be in my future, but I'm open to anything that will enable me to help people and pursue joy!
HC Queen's U contributor